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Macron picks EU liberal leader as new foreign minister in cabinet reshuffle

Macron picks EU liberal leader as new foreign minister in cabinet reshuffle

by host

PARIS — Emmanuel Macron picked Renew Europe Group President Stéphane Séjourné as France’s new foreign minister, the French presidency announced Thursday, in a widely expected government reshuffle.

Séjourné’s appointment is likely to have big repercussions for European centrists ahead of the European election in June. The 38-year-old is a key operator in the Macron galaxy, running both the Renew group in the European Parliament and Macron’s Renaissance party in France, and was widely expected to head Macron’s Renew list in the election.

Dutch MEP Malik Azmani, first vice president of the Renew Europe Group, will head the group following Séjourné’s departure, a press representative for Séjourné said.

It was understood that Séjourné’s predecessor, Catherine Colonna, was on her way out as she was seen as being unable to make a mark on foreign affairs, an area that is seen as the reserved remit of the president.

Macron is looking for a fresh start after a tumultuous 2023, marked by mass protests, urban riots and rifts within his own camp. Key left-leaning Cabinet members voiced their displeasure after the government compromised with hardline conservatives on an immigration bill which the far-right described as an “ideological victory.”

Heavyweights stay on

While France’s new Prime Minister Gabriel Attal will continue working with some of his former colleagues, Macron also brought in eye-catching scalps including Rachida Dati, a justice minister under Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency and former MEP for conservative party Les Républicains, who is appointed culture minister.

Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, a key cabinet member whose presidential ambitions are an open secret in Paris political circles, stays on as minister of the economy. Le Maire, Attal’s former boss back when the now prime minister was in charge of the French budget, has been at the helm of the French economy for six-and-a-half years.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who was eyeing the government’s top job and is discussed as a potential contender for the next presidential election, also stays on.

Conservative catch

The new government includes one key move for the French political landscape, with Macron poaching Rachida Dati, a well-known figure on the right. Dati is known for her blunt communication style and lively opposition to Parisian mayor Anne Hidalgo.

Dati has been under formal investigation since 2021 on corruption allegations. She is suspected of having received 900,000 euros over three years from French carmaker Renault for lobbying the European Parliament while she was still a MEP, Le Monde and AFP reported. Dati has denied any wrongdoing.

The first Attal government features expanded cabinet roles. Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra stays on and will handle preparatives for the Paris 2024 Olympic games, but also picks up Attal’s former position as education minister. Catherine Vautrin, a former Chirac official, replaces Rousseau as health minister but will also take charge of labor affairs.

Further appointments for lower-ranking cabinet positions are set to be announced on Friday.

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